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Though oft overlooked, kickers shaping playoffs

The 2009 NFL playoffs are in full swing and we are now heading into the divisional round.  Like most of you, I watched every minute of the games last week, even participating in our Open Playoff Thread.  Most of the games were fairly uninteresting, outside of the Green Bay/Arizona game, but I still managed to plug away and watch all 4 games. 

As a Bucs fan it was aggravating to spend another January weekend day watching someone other than our Buccaneers roll into the playoffs.  Not having your favorite team playing for all the marbles, or even with a chance at them is frustrating.  But then, the playoffs and the NFL started to give back.

There is no doubt we endured a tough season filled with mistakes, blunders and bloopers.  We had to suffer through blowouts, last second losses, dropped passes and mistakes that seemed to never end.  Well, as tough as the season was, I found myself enjoying a certain part of the playoffs.  The kicking battle.

I can't recall a year when kickers seemed to be so non-automatic.  It used to be from 40 and in was a lock (in decent weather), anything under 45 yards was a good bet and anything around 50 yards or more was a coin flip.  The Bucs went through Bryant (in preseason), Nugent, Andrus and settled on Barth.  All of these guys missed kicks and a few seemed to cost us games.  We've seen Nick Folk, Suisham, and others miss key field goals and lose their jobs.

And while I don't enjoy seeing failure (unless its a team playing the Bucs), here teams were, in the beginning of a playoff push and it seemed disaster was everywhere in the kicking game.  Shayne Graham, whom I guessing is soon to be an ex-Bengal, missed two chip shots that would at least have made the Jets sweat.  Neil Rackers, a pretty good kicker, missed a relative slam dunk that would have won the game outright for the Cardinals.  Stephen Gostowski missed a 42 yarder that would have pulled the Patriots within sniffing distance and at least made a game out of it. 

I have to admit, seeing them miss the kicks, while perplexing as a fan and guy who can kick field goals, it brought me the tiniest bit of satisfaction to see the Bucs weren't the only team plagued by this issue.

With the divisional round almost here, we'll see kickers like Stover, Hartley, Longwell, Kaeding, and even guys like Rackers and Suisham.  Be sure to watch every FG attempt closely, no telling what you might see.